Keskin says torture has never been legitimized to this extent

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Lawyer and human rights activist Eren Keskin

Lawyer and human rights activist Eren Keskin said a state of emergency (OHAL) has been used to cover up all violations in Turkey, saying she does “not remember any period in which torture was this much legitimized.”

“Our many lawyer friends are under arrest in Şanlıurfa. The period of detention is 30 days, there are lawyer bans and torture. There’s the strip search, sexual torture. We receive these kinds of complaints everywhere we go,” said Keskin at the “OHAL Practices and Human Rights Violations” conference organized by the Şanlıurfa Bar Association in Şanlıurfa on Saturday.

“I do not remember any period in which torture was this much legitimized. I do not remember any period in which arrests were made this arbitrarily, torture was as legitimized as it is now, freedom of expression destroyed to this extent.”

Underlining that all those violations have been covered up under the excuse of the state of emergency, Keskin continued: “There are sick prisoners. Cancer patients are not taken to the hospital. There are so many violations of rights, but first of all, there must be freedom of thought and expression. If people cannot speak, violence speaks.”

“We all live in a process in which we feel ever more desperate,” added Keskin.

Jurists including lawyers arrested

Şanlıurfa Bar Association board member Güldal Beyazağaç Tuncel, who spoke during the conference, pointed out that people have been suffering enormous distress due to decisions based on inadequate evidence.

Saying that people are being punished by means of detention practices, Tuncel said: “Arrestees are waiting for months, and the indictments are not being issued. Due to restriction decisions on investigation files, they do not know why they’ve been arrested; therefore, their defense can’t be made effectively. As part of operations many jurists including lawyers have been taken into custody and arrested.”

Tuncel listed other problems: “Conditions in the detention centers are quite bad. People are being kept at sports centers. Two hundred people use one toilet, and there is no possibility of having a bath. Consulting with lawyers is restricted for the first five days. Additionally, they have started to ask lawyers for written consent from the families of detainees. The right to chose to a lawyer belongs to the detainee, not the family. The detainees are marched in the corridors of the courthouse with their hands cuffed behind their backs; they are being humiliated in this way.”

Lawyers worry when accepting a case

Mentioning restrictions on the right to a defense, Tuncel said; “Police discriminate between lawyers chosen by detainees and those assigned by the bar association. The lawyers who are chosen by the suspects are being discriminated against. Lawyers worry when accepting a case. They are worrying whether an investigation will be launched against them. Lawyers are no longer able to perform their duties independently and freely.”

Tuncel reminded that lawyers who are members of the Urfa Bar Association have been arrested, handcuffed and sent to prison: “The arrest is a measure. If there is a danger of the suspect fleeing or destroying the evidence, the suspect is arrested. However, arrest has become a punishment.”

Worse than Feb. 28 era

Speaking at the conference, Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, former head of the Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples (Mazlumder), described the problems posed by government decrees (KHK) issued during the state of emergency.

“KHKs make peoples’ lives miserable. It takes years for you to prove that you are innocent, in other words completing the domestic judicial process and taking it to the European court. If one is guilty, one can be punished. But you tell them, ‘Die’,” said Gergerlioğlu, who was also dismissed from a public hospital by a government decree on Jan. 6.

“We are experiencing a worse process than the Feb. 28 coup era. They try to  fool people with religion. They try to use religion as a mask.”

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